The Divisive Character of the Cross

Hope for Today (English)
Hope for Today (English)
The Divisive Character of the Cross
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1 Corinthians 1:18-25

The Bible says that God made all nations of “one blood.” The apostle Paul, when lecturing on Mars Hill in Athens, made that tremendous statement in Acts 17:24-27:

God that made the world and all things therein, seeing that he is Lord of heaven and earth, dwelleth not in temples made with hands; Neither is worshiped with men’s hands, as though he needed anything, seeing he giveth to all life, and breath, and all things; And hath made of one blood all nations of men for to dwell on all the face of the earth, and hath determined the times before appointed, and the bounds of their habitation.

Paul was giving the elite philosophers of Mars Hill a tough proposition: they and the slaves of the marketplace were made of one blood.

Intellectualism often lifts up the human spirit in pride. The apostle Paul said that knowledge puffeth up. The Gospel elevates the common person and humbles the chief executive officer. We can say, “The ground around the Cross is level.” Amen?

The meaning of “Gospel,” evangel, is “good news.” You may wonder, if the Gospel makes everyone as one, why is that such good news? Simply this. We all stand together before the Lord with no prerequisites. The road of human history, however, is strewn with wrecks of individuals and nations that resisted the divine declaration of the Cross. The Cross cuts clean. It is a divisive Cross. No one can stand brazenly erect in the presence of the Cross of Jesus Christ. Amen. The Cross cuts d own. It humbles all.

Let’s read I Corinthians 1:18-25.

18 For the preaching of the cross is to them that perish foolishness; but unto us which are saved it is the power of God.

19 For it is written, I will destroy the wisdom of the wise, and will bring to nothing the understanding of the prudent.

20 Where is the wise? where is the scribe? where is the disputer of this world? hath not God made foolish the wisdom of this world?

21 For after that in the wisdom of God the world by wisdom knew not God, it pleased God by the foolishness of preaching to save them that believe.

22 For the Jews require a sign, and the Greeks seek after wisdom:

23 But we preach Christ crucified, unto the Jews a stumblingblock, and unto the Greeks foolishness;

24 But unto them which are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God, and the wisdom of God.

25 Because the foolishness of God is wiser than men; and the weakness of God is stronger than men.

Here Paul clearly sets forth the DIVISIONS the Cross makes when it is properly preached.

The first division is:

THE CROSS DIVIDES AT REGENERATION

18 For the preaching of the cross is to them that perish foolishness; but unto us which are saved it is the power of God.

On the one hand, the apostle Paul speaks about those who are perishing, on the other hand, about those who are being saved. The Cross cleaves the human race into two groups. Notice carefully what Jesus said in John 3:17-21.

For God sent not his Son into the world to condemn the world: but that the world through him might be saved. He that believeth on Him is not condemned: but he that believeth not is condemned already, because he hath not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God. And this is the condemnation, that light is come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil. For everyone that doeth evil hateth the light, neither cometh to the light lest his deeds should be reproved. But he that doeth truth cometh to the light, that his deeds may be made manifest, that they are wrought in God.

My friend, those are the words of Jesus. We can’t get around them. The Cross makes the division. The Cross strikes through. It divides at regeneration. It classifies people into two groups. There is no middle ground. Those who are perishing fail to comprehend what is required.

Speaking of Christ and the Cross, Barnes wrote these words:

They are blind to the true beauty of his personal character; to the true dignity of his nature; to his power over the sick, the lame, the dying, and the dead; they see not the bearing of the work of atonement on the law and government of God; they believe not in his resurrection and his present state of exalted glory. The world looks only at the fact, that the despised man of Nazareth was put to death on a cross, and smiles at the idea that such a death could have any important influence on the salvation of man.

Yes, that is true. That is where it is. Anyone wishing to be born-again, or saved, must accept the Cross and its meaning.

The second division is:

THE CROSS DIVIDES AT SOPHISTICATION

19 For it is written, I will destroy the wisdom of the wise, and will bring to nothing the understanding of the prudent.

20 Where is the wise? where is the scribe? where is the disputer of this world? hath not God made foolish the wisdom of this world?

21 For after that in the wisdom of God the world by wisdom knew not God, it pleased God by the foolishness of preaching to save them that believe.

22 For the Jews require a sign, and the Greeks seek after wisdom:

23 But we preach Christ crucified, unto the Jews a stumbling block, and unto the Greeks foolishness;

We line up the intellectuals. The apostle says, “Where is the wise?” The wise is the lover of knowledge, the lover of wisdom, pursuing knowledge for its own sake. The more he can accumulate, the happier he is. And Paul says, “Where is the scribe?” the one who copies the Law, the Mosaic Law, and the Roman law, the well learned. Ask him. He is like a walking encyclopedia; he can tell you what the answer is. Or “Where is the disputer of this world?” the researcher, the one who studies, studies, and studies what the sages have said. All right, set those three on one side: the wise, the scribe, the disputer of this world. Set them over there. The wisdom of God far surpasses them and trims them down to size. The Cross divides that kind of human sophistication.

Human sophistication cannot fathom the wisdom of God! Actually, it doubles back on itself. We might say it bounces off the ceiling! If we are searching for truth, all we can know really is what God has revealed about Himself. The stumbling block is Jesus. To the Jew, the Cross is a stumbling block. But the Old Testament Scriptures are full of sacrificial rituals over and over. You bring this offering for that and that offering for this. Why should that be such a stumbling block? The Cross is foolishness to the Greeks or Gentiles. The very idea that they should be expected to believe that Jesus Christ’s death on the cross would or could have any effect on them is absurd. But they had no reasonable answer. They could not come up with anything better.

I remember once when I was talking to a young man about the need for faith, he said, “I wish I had that kind of grade school mentality.” I want you to hear a few words from another source:

The most profound theories in science, and the most subtle speculations of men of genius, in regard to the causes of things are often overthrown by a few simple discoveries and discoveries which are at first despised as much as the gospel is. The invention of the telescope by Galileo was to the theories of philosophers and astronomers, what the revelation of the gospel was to the systems of ancient learning, and the deductions of human wisdom. The one confounded the world as much as the other, and both were at first equally the object of opposition of contempt.

Yes, you see the Cross reduces human wisdom to shambles.

The third division is:

THE CROSS DIVIDES AT CONFRONTATION

24 But unto them which are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God, and the wisdom of God.

25 Because the foolishness of God is wiser than men; and the weakness of God is stronger than men.

The call confronts all Jews and Greeks, the religious and the intelligent, the self-styled. Jesus said, “Come unto me, all ye that labor and are heaven laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light” (Matthew 11:28-30). These are the words of Jesus. It is a loving call to the weary, and all are weary!

It comes the blessed call. Christ empowers; Christ imparts power to do and wisdom to understand. Amen!

The foolishness of God is wiser than the wisdom of men, the apostle says. Go ahead. Gather your libraries together, and stack up your PC software around the world, pile it up. Let me tell you that after you have it all together, what you don’t know makes a bigger pile than what you do know. Yes, the foolishness of God is wiser than men’s wisdom. And the weakness of God is stronger than men’s power. Bring together all the power of human inventions, bring it together, all the great moving equipment, everything you can think of, bring it together. I inform you that God’s weakness easily outpulls them all! No doubt He can do more with His little finger than a million weight lifters do together! Amen, He has the last word.

Another sage wrote:

Men groped after him, but could not find him. It was part of the Divine scheme that the wisdom of the world should have free scope to work, and only when it had exhausted itself was the world ripe for the bringing in of the gospel. This was a part of the preparation for Christ. Human wisdom is still inadequate. It cannot save a single soul. Men perish as they speculate; men die as they frame theories of life. In God’s view, man’s wisdom is folly; in man’s view, God’s wisdom is folly.

In the confrontation, God’s wisdom comes out far ahead! Amen.

Think carefully about how the Cross attacks and demolishes all human hopes.

THE CROSS DIVIDES AT REGENERATION

You are either perishing or being saved.

THE CROSS DIVIDES AT SOPHISTICATION

You either accept the wisdom of God or try to build on the shambles of human wisdom.

THE CROSS DIVIDES AT CONFRONTATION

You either appeal to the power of God or struggle in vain to find peace in your spirit and soul.